The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Back From A(Broad)

This summer I took a trip of a lifetime. France, with my daughter, my granddaughter and my French sister.

We spent most of our time in Nay--a small village close to Pau--along with Pau  ( a large city), Bordeaux (an even bigger city) and Contis (a beachside town) .

The only thing more delicious than the French cheese is the French bread.
And what is that fuzzy-looking thing in the foreground? Probably my thumb.
My photography skills are wicked-awesome...
Almost all of the windows in Nay have shutters,
and none of them have screens. The shutters are varied in color.
Some are periwinkle, some are celery-green, some are royal blue,
and so on.

We spent a weekend in Contis, a beach town on the Atlantic Ocean.
The waves here are much more dangerous than the waves
the Atlantic sends to Florida beaches...

We walked along the shoreline, past the family section where topless sunbathing
is quite accepted, to a section where nude sunbathers--mostly men--were enjoying
the perfect weather. NONE of the men I saw (and some of them I desperately tried to unsee) looked like Viggo Mortensen. However, I DID see a few 

who were sporting a shag rug all over their backs...

This is just one of the many charming homes in Nay.

This is a "water mural" in Bordeaux. It's a huge expanse of brick/stone--bigger than a football field. A thin film of water covers the surface. On clear days, it mirrors the city. It attracts people of all ages.

One day we spent hiking, surrounded by the Pyrenees Mountains.
My skills with a camera do not do them justice...

The architecture in France is a feast for the eyes. There are little touches of loveliness
everywhere you look.

The French cheese is divine. Some is made from cow's milk,
some from goat's milk, and some from a combination of the two milks.

This is what I did over the summer. I officially went back to work yesterday. So I'm curious. What did you do over the summer?


Monday, August 3, 2015

Yikes! There's a Hamster in the Dashboard!

        For all three of my followers--I'm back onto this continent. On Thursday I will post some photos from France, but for today, check out a collection of pet stories, and at the end, find out about a give-away I'm offering...


        Right away--from the title on--I felt at home with the stories in David W. Berner's book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard:  A Life in Pets. The title made me hurtle back to my childhood to a gerbil that disappeared in my closet... and was never found. (I like to think it had a long, interesting life, full of adventures, since my closet was full of all sorts of stuff.) And then I remembered the hamsters my daughter brought home from a high school science class. We treated those hamsters like they were CEOs. We purchased one of those expensive hamster homes--with the plastic tubes that looped around outside of the cage--but these ungrateful hamsters were Houdini-reincarnations. They chewed their way out, came upstairs from the basement, and were literally scared to death when faced with our golden retriever mix. (The final stand-off was in the middle of our living room, but our cats had flushed them out. The hamsters had camped out behind a floor-to-ceiling bookcase and our two cats sat--fascinated--in front of the bookcase for quite a while before the rodents tried to make a break for it.)

         Berner's little slices of his life are filled with humor and poignancy. His story about ants reminded me that I too had had an Uncle Milton ant farm. (Unfortunately for the ants, I lost the water dropper, and had to use a straw. If I remember right, I ended up accidentally drowning the ants.)  At camp, I had a pet ant (one of those great big ones) that I kept in my plastic soap dish for a while. In his book, the author chronicles the varied pets he's had, including a lizard, a cat, more than one dog, a spider named Ralph, and two gerbils that got "married." Tony and Tina the gerbils had babies so soon after their honeymoon, I wondered... Were they Tony's babies? Should he have gone onto the Maury Povich show and demanded a DNA test? I just don't know...      

     David Berner even tells of his desire to have a piranha, his father's dream of having a monkey, and having a squirrel for a few days. It's obvious that Berner gets it. He gets the connection we have with animals. He gets the importance that animals have in our lives. And he gets how much pets enrich our lives.

     There are times when I read a collection of vignettes and the endings aren't satisfying. It's as if the writer has spent the time on lacing up the story, nice and neat, but then finally ties a quick, sloppy knot at the end. Berner took the time to give a satisfying finale to each story.

      Leave a comment, and I will put your name in the hat for a free copy of the book. (Sioux don't do no "raffle-copter" 'cause she ain't that tech-savvy. Instead, your name will literally be put into a hat, shaken AND stirred before I close my eyes and one slip is pulled out.)

Book Summary:
A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.
Buy links:
Print or Ebook: Amazon
Print copy only: Dream of Things
Paperback: 138 Pages
Genre: Memoir, Pets, Essays
Publisher: Dream of Things (April 23, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0990840719

Twitter hashtag: # HamsterDash

About the Author: David W. Berner is a journalist, broadcaster, teacher, and author of two award-winning books: Accidental Lessons, which earned the Royal Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature, and Any Road Will Take You There, which was a Grand Prize Finalist for the 2015 Hoffer Award for Books. Berner’s stories have been published in a number of literary magazines and journals, and his broadcast reporting and audio documentaries have aired on the CBS Radio Network and dozens of public radio stations across America. He teaches at Columbia College Chicago.